May 7, 2019

Learning to excel in a disruptive era

Know when and what to improve in yourself to keep up with a fast-changing world.


Artificial intelligence (AI), automation, machine learning, big data, digital marketing, blockchain, fintech, Industry 4.0, Business 4.0 and even Human Resources 4.0 — no doubt you’ve read about most or all of these topics in the past few years. What they all have in common is technology that is getting bigger and better in all possible ways, disrupting businesses and organizations in all directions.

Many of us are struggling to keep up with these big changes. The only sure way we can keep up is to keep unlearning the irrelevant and learning the new.

When to upgrade: But learning comes with its own set of challenges. One of them is understanding what to learn to upgrade ourselves and when to do it. The reality is that we need to constantly aim to upgrade, and to do that, we need to learn continuously. Learning doesn’t stop with formal education, it is continuous throughout our lives and can take many different forms.

What to upgrade: We don’t always know how to upgrade ourselves or where to even begin. The following are some things to keep in mind before you embark on your learning and improvement journey.

First, understand that certificates and degrees are great and will get you far, but not far enough if you’re not constantly learning beyond. The knowledge that the piece of paper says you have acquired might not even work in the real world. Learning requires real-life application to test its value.


Second, no matter what position you’re in or where you are in life, empathy always prevails. Empathy is the ability to open your mind, to understand and share the feelings and perspectives of others. Working on your empathy upgrades not just you as a person but also creates impact around you for the better.

Empathy isn’t just something that gives people feel-good emotions. Just ask Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft’s value doubled over the course of his work in transforming the company culture to a more empathetic one. To further upgrade yourself, open your mind through empathy.

Also crucial is our third point — critical thinking and complex problem-solving. People are well aware of the need for this skill, the importance of which is growing because of the advances in technology.

Machines can already solve simple problems in just a few seconds. And they continue to evolve, they will easily replace humans in increasingly challenging problem-solving roles. But machines can’t resolve complex issues yet. This is where the human mind is still superior. If we do not practice critical thinking and complex problem-solving, we might soon be replaced by machines.


Fourth, we can upgrade ourselves through improved collaboration skills in all aspects — face-to-face and virtually. With the speed of change accelerating, we can no longer rely on ourselves alone to create new innovations or impact. We need to work with others to achieve bigger and better things.

Collaboration usually happens face-to-face, but we also need to learn to do so virtually. Working with others in different parts of the world isn’t new, but technology is making it easier. Many large companies with branches all over the world are already embracing virtual collaboration.

The use of specialized freelancers and remote workers to help support projects is something else that isn’t entirely new. Many of us today need to be able to coordinate and harmoniously collaborate with people we have never met personally.

The fifth and final important — and probably most overlooked — way to upgrade yourself is learning to be adaptable. You can learn everything in the world but if you’re too rigid in your ways, you’ll never be able to move forward.

Beyond these points, there are many other important ways to upgrade yourself to stay relevant in the changing world and keep pace with change. Whatever they may be, remember that to upgrade yourself to succeed and accomplish more, you need to learn continuously. It isn’t about trying to know everything to get ahead, rather, it is about consistently learning so you’ll understand the changes in the world to move with them.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center.
She can be reached by email at or visit Experience our lifelong learning ecosystem at